The Pittsburgh Penguins made the Washington Capitals look slow. On that, most observers can agree.
For the Caps, the question now is whether that was due more to personnel or tactics.
“Overall, I don’t think we’re a slow team, but I think at times, we get exposed with the really fast teams,” said GM Brian MacLellan, per CSN Washington. “Dallas, Pittsburgh, we did struggle sometimes with the pace of the game. I don’t think all of the time. I think sometimes I see it more as we don’t enforce our style of play on the speed team. We sit back and let them do the speed game.”
Certainly, guys like Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel used their speed effectively against Washington. The Caps, meanwhile, tried to employ more of a heavy style. Maybe not quite as heavy as the Los Angeles Kings or St. Louis Blues, but in that neighborhood.
“The Pittsburgh series, I think at times their speed took over, and then at times, we took over with a physical, pressure style, physical strength style of play,” said MacLellan. “It went back and forth quite a bit. I think it’s on us, the style we want to play, upon the speed teams, so while speed is a factor, I think we need to enforce the way we want to play on teams, and more consistently.”
MacLellan is unlikely to make drastic changes to the lineup, so while there may be a few tweaks here and there, the Capitals’ ability to handle faster teams may depend largely on the adjustments that head coach Barry Trotz makes.
“That’s something that we’re really going to talk about,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “It’s been – not an issue – but it’s been brought up. … They throw pucks to space and use some of that speed to create some of that, so it makes you look a lot faster sometimes. We’re going to look at it from a style standpoint and some of the teams that have been doing that a little bit.”